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Palm OS Spinoff

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  • by Brijam (242526) on Wednesday October 17, 2001 @02:06AM (#2440097) Homepage
    Now if we could only convince Microsoft to do the same thing!
    • by Goronguer (223202)
      Now if we could only convince Microsoft to do the same thing!


      Or better yet, if we could only convince Apple to do the same thing! This would free Apple's OS division to aggressively market their products to all OEMs. Imagine if all the owners of x86 boxes out there had the option to install OSX instead of Windows.


      I know this has been debated before, but I still think it makes sense.

      • Or better yet, if we could only convince Apple to do the same thing! This would free Apple's OS division to aggressively market their products to all OEMs. Imagine if all the owners of x86 boxes out there had the option to install OSX instead of Windows.
        I know this has been debated before, but I still think it makes sense.

        And been done before, from a hardware standpoint anyway. Then Steve Jobs came back and ended the whole thing. Really, if Apple had any intention of doing this, they would have done it a long time ago.

        Be that as it may, Apple's hardware and software are rather tightly integrated, IMHO. Separating the two would be rather difficult; not impossible, but Mac users would not get the feeling of the system as whole. I have used Linux, *BSD and Windows on my PCs, but have not felt like the thing's a complete system like I have when I used a Mac. Am I talking myself into getting a Mac? Been tempted, but no.

        So, while I think Apple spinning off the OS would be a good thing for PC users, it would not be so good for Mac users.

        • MacOS is not tightly integrated into the hardware anymore. This used to be true on older machines running (I think MacOS6 was the last one to be put in ROM), but since MacOS 7 it is no longer in the system's ROM. You can emulate MacOS7 on x86 and on PPC machines you can run MacOS9 (no cpu emulation).

          OSX is another animal, the kernel runs on a wide range of hardware,infact you can run OSX on x86 hardware today. Of course on x86 it must be run without the nifty MacOS GUI.. but you CAN run Xwindows on it. It would be possible to port the MacOS-X gui to another platform, it just hasn't been done (yet?)

          I like my Mac, but it doesn't run that pile of garbage called MacOS. Linux runs good on it, although I may decide to move to Darwin or another *n?x.
  • by Squideye (37826) on Wednesday October 17, 2001 @02:06AM (#2440098) Homepage Journal
    Of course, Handspring tends to customize their OSes heavily to fit their hardware. 3.1H and 3.5.2H(x) are relatively substantial retrofits. I love the fact that the PalmOS is such a streamlined, efficient tool. I think as its own company, focused on the OS, they could really do some good. OTOH it could shake Palm's grip on the market further... but if the market really expands, hey, maybe there's room.
    • I have done some programming on the Handspring and I didn't notice any heavy customizations. The OS was entirely the same except for a few extensions (try and catch API) for the Springboard slot. The rest was vanilla PalmOS. Thats the way it should be and thats what makes it completely compatible with all PalmOS applications. So in my opinion there is no substantial retrofit. Just an extension. This is of course, from an application programmers point of view, not a porting programmer that designed the OS. Any dissenting and enlightening views are appreciated.

      JOhn
      • There is a lot of under the hood changes for Handspring and the Cleos. You just don't see them, because the API is the same. It's something called compatiblity I think.
        • Really? Perhaps you could elaborate? I'm just a dumbass and I don't know what compatibility means.

          Now just how big are the changes? Of course, there will be driver level changes for different displays, etc.. but the API? Can you give me any sort of proof there is "alot of under hood changes" going on or are you just passing on "knowl3dge" you learned on IRC. In a more radical view of "alot of changes" do you really think Handspring rewrote the PalmOS from the ground up to change "whats under the hood" and kept the same API? Come on...

          I'm more than happy to hear comments from people in the know on API changes. Or perhaps even just a reference to substantiate a claim. But just passing on info cuz you think its right and then adding stupid endings like "its called compatiblity" to make yourself seem smarter doesn't add much to the circle of knowledge. If you work for Handspring, Sony, Handera, or even just know cuz you program on Palm Pilots please enlighten us. On the other hand if you are a troll and add a sentence in which you enlighten the slashdot community about "compatibility" then please refrain.

          JOhn
          • Go to plamos.com and go to handspring and download the code. The source is available for palmos if you sign up as a developer. The API is the same, but parts of the code are definately different. PalmOS is really not that big. It's not Windows2000, it's PalmOS.

  • sounds like a great idea, PalmOS dev seemed to be stagnating for the last year or so, since 2.5 actually.

    and we stood and watched as WinCE got stronger and the Journada and the iPaq get better and better.

    i hope this lights some creative fire in both divisions. I wonder if Palm hardware will be modified to run Linux or WinCE?
  • hercules using arm? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by htmlboy (31265) on Wednesday October 17, 2001 @02:10AM (#2440105)
    The story mentions that at least one future Palm is going to be using an ARM processor (Hercules 1.0). i guess that means we'll finally see linux on genuine Palm(tm) hardware, at the expense of have a cool processor name like the Dragonball VZ.

    It also brings up interesting prospects for the future of Palm OS. If Palm's OS division is making a Palm OS for an ARM processor, will we start to see Palm OS as an option on iPaq's and th like? It's just my personal opinion, but I like Palm's interface more than WinCE, but right now, the hardware that runs it is slower. I guess we'll see.
    • by GrouchoMarx (153170) on Wednesday October 17, 2001 @03:01AM (#2440185) Homepage
      i guess that means we'll finally see linux on genuine Palm(tm) hardware, at the expense of have a cool processor name like the Dragonball VZ.

      Oh come on. "Palm" OS running on an "ARM" processor, but without the "Thumb" extensions to the chipset, being sold by "Hand"spring and "Hand"Era? The possibilities are endless... :-)

    • So you mean a name like Dragonball MX1 [motorola.com] isn't cool enough? ;-)

    • If Palm's OS division is making a Palm OS for an ARM processor, will we start to see Palm OS as an option on iPaq's and th like?
      I'd say fat chance under current conditions. Even though M$ signed a consent decree promising otherwise in 1995, they've still been able to strong-arm OEMs into exclusive licensing deals for Windows. If not by contract, certainly by pricing pressure. One of the anti-trust settlement terms the government is trying to insist upon (since the breakup was nixed) is that Microsoft publishes a public price list that all OEMs would be able to purchase licenses at. That way a particular OEM would be able to offer Linux (or whatever alternative OS) without worrying that their Windows licensing terms will be jeopardized.
      • by martyn s (444964)
        Microsoft doesn't have such a stronghold on the handheld market. If you're in the mainstream making PCs, there is simply no other option but to package it with windows. Here, if microsoft tried to bully compaq or anyone, I don't think they'd be so reluctant to just switch over to Palm. So, either they start using Palm OS without trouble, or they try using it, then Microsoft gives them an ultimatum and compaq calls their bluff. Either way, I definitely see it happening

        Also, since the OS division will be it's own company, they can also sell versions of Palm OS for the different hardware available. Like even if Compaq continues exclusively using wince, PalmOS can just compile the OS for the StrongARM processor, etc. And I don't know about the other companies, but compaq would not have a problem with that...they've been very supportive with using linux on the iPAQ. And that makes it seem more likely Compaq will start selling iPaqs with palm.
  • So, if I get this right:
    "Handspring" is going to eventually benefit from an OS that has been "sprung" by "Palm"...Oh the pain of bad irony.

  • Palm currently owns BeOS. If Palm is spinning off its operating systems division, this new division will probably own BeOS. Is this a good thing?
    • I hate to say it but at this point almost anything involving BeOs will be a good thing. I mean, it s a good OS and seeing it mostly shelved now is a bit sad...I'd like to see (A) the products that the small embedded version is supposedly going to run on eventually (B) the small embedded OS that is supposedly going to run on these devices eventually (c) the full OS being developed again and released again (d) if all else fails, a proper burial for this cuddly and friendly alternative OS.

      • by GrouchoMarx (153170) on Wednesday October 17, 2001 @03:29AM (#2440200) Homepage
        Palm's reasoning behind buying Be was very sound. They didn't want the BeOS codebase. It doesn't fit into a handheld. Neither does BeIA, which is designed for the niche-that-wasn't "Internet Appliance". They wanted the people who wrote a multithreaded, multitasking, multimedia OS in the first place.

        Palm: Hey, you guys wrote a super cool OS for the desktop that rocked, and you did it relatively quickly, too.
        Be engineers: Thanks!
        Palm: We've got to write a new OS for the ARM archetecture that is fast, multimedia-ready, and backward compatible. Think you can do it?
        Be engineers: Uhhh...
        Palm: Here's $11 million, we just bought what's left of your company.
        Be engineers: Sure!

        Don't look for BeOS to appear on the Palm anytime soon. Look for the same kind of cool developments on the Palm, this time with a market share that can actually appreciate all that hard work.

        • by PatSmarty (135304)
          According to industry analysts, WinCE is on the way up while Palm will go down due to lack of multimedia features and beeing a "real computing platform" instead of an organizer.

          Changing direction for Palm is clever, but one has to ask if they aren't late: Developing a new OS might take 2 years, while WinCE is pretty much there.

          Disclaimer: Yes, I have a Palm. No, I dislike MS.
          • by SEE (7681)
            These are the same industry analysts that thought "Wireless Web" and "3G" would be big, because they brought "content" and "multimedia" to cell phones.

            Nobody beyond a handful of wannabe-geeks who want to say "look what my handheld can do!" give a damn about multimedia on a handheld. "Ooh, I can look at 3"x2" color Powerpoint slides, and listen to supercompressed MP3s over tinny speakers!"
            • by mj6798 (514047)
              Give the handheld a VGA output port and good headphones (maybe even Bluetooth) and all of a sudden PowerPoint and MP3 on a handheld are very attractive to a lot of people.
            • If I can choose between dragging several pounds of laptop or bringing my palm in my pocket for a presentation, then I give a damn :)
            • Nobody beyond a handful of wannabe-geeks who want to say "look what my handheld can do!" give a damn about multimedia on a handheld. "Ooh, I can look at 3"x2" color Powerpoint slides, and listen to supercompressed MP3s over tinny speakers!"

              Which is exactly what Microsoft has yet to figure out with the PocketPC line, and Palm has always known. Yet they do need to advance the product beyond a single-tasking 33 MHz device. A VGA screen would make some tasks far easier (an address book not being one of them). For PowerPoint, you're not going to use the device to show PowerPoint slides. You can't croud everyone around a 3" screen. But you CAN use it as your remote control for the slides, with a real time display and your own notes. For that, a better screen/processor does come in useful.

              Incremental improvement as they are able to do it RIGHT is what Palm (and most of its licensees) have been good at, and they need to keep that up. They just need to get it right a little faster to keep the MHz kiddies (who run IT departments) happy.

    • If Palm splits into one company that does strictly hardware and another that only Software/Operating Systems, it seems like only good could come out of the deal for BeOS.

      I'm sure Palm doesn't want the whole BeOS effort to go to waste, and now that they'll have a "separate" division for OS development, they need not be tied to just developing PDA operating systems. They can even try going towards IAs more, just as Be wanted to do.

      On the other hand, I guess this would technically free up Palm's hardware division... they would probably be able to recover more market share by using other OS's instead of PalmOS on some models. I doubt they would want to, but it seems that this leaves the possibility open.
    • Palm does NOT own BeOS. The deal hasn't been accepted yet by the shareholders. We will know for certain on Nov. 12th, when there will be a special shareholders meeting.

      As for BeOS itself, check out http://www.befaqs.com/save or http://www.beunited.org . There are efforts to get Palm to license BeOS itself (which they have no intention of using, they only bought the Be Engineers remember? so they could build a new PalmOS).
  • by Tim_F (12524)
    been the plan? Even if it hasn't, it is never the less a good idea. It will put 3Com on the same footing as all the other PalmOS licensees. They will no longer have access to the latest features. We may also see the advances that are really needed to fully squash PowerPC (2002? I think that's the latest version) come from Palm, as opposed to licensees. The licensees won't have to work quite as hard to differentiate themselves from the Pocket PC devices. The really great advances will be standard across the majority of the devices.
    • 3Com already spun Palm off into its own company. Now Palm is spinning PalmOS off into its own company..Which makes me wonder what becomes of the rest of Palm, as their hardware has been doing nothing but lose market-share for the past few years.
  • Port Palm OS to the PC or something? That could be interesting....

  • by BrookHarty (9119)
    Palm must have really wanted to Mr. Nagel to leave his job at AT&T because his compensation package is a sweet deal. In addition to his $620 thousand salary he got a $200 thousand hiring bonus and can participate in a discretionary cash bonus plan giving him up to 70% of his base salary.

    Not sure if that was a wise choice, leaving ATT Labs [att.com]... They have some sweet projects. In fact im using VNC [att.com] right now. Thou a 650K a year, damn...
  • Palm sees the writing on the wall. Faced with slumping sales and negative earnings, they're spinning off the least profitable part of their business and letting it sink or swim. Good for them.

    I predict that within two years, every Palm-like device will be running embedded Linux. The advances in CPU power, embedded-friendly features (can you say realtime scheduling), portability, and ease of development will make PalmOS (still stuck in the 90's) and WinCE (never a serious contender anyway) very unattractive, expensive options. As margins fade away and manufacturers look for ways to gain an edge on the competition, Linux will have the clear advantage from the cost perspective. Additionally, Linux-based devices are very popular amongst the technical crowd because of their configurability and stability (especially when compared to other embedded OSs like QNX), which will help prop up sales when the number of rich MBA-types dwindle.

    Don't forget, also, that KDE is approaching its 3.0 release and the embedded version is gaining in popularity. I won't be surprised at all if it becomes a serious contender for PDA and cell phone desktops. Porting KDE to PalmOS, WinCE, or QNX would cost some money - but on Linux, it's practically native.

    -CT

    • Palm sees the writing on the wall.

      You mean the Grafiti on the wall?

      *rimshot*
    • Don't forget, also, that KDE is approaching its 3.0 release and the embedded version is gaining in popularity. I won't be surprised at all if it becomes a serious contender for PDA and cell phone desktops. Porting KDE to PalmOS, WinCE, or QNX would cost some money - but on Linux, it's practically native.

      Unless the embedded QT gets released under the GPL, it will take quite some time and/or investment before any of the Linux GUI's will be able to run in an embedded system. On a normal desktop machine running linux X11 is responsible for converting all the nifty QT function calls to the nitty-gritty details of individual pixels on the screen. X11 is simply too much of an memory hog, and to feature rich to run on any of the current generation of palm-sized devices.

      Also, most of the Gnome/KDE software is bloated beyond belief when seen from the standpoint of an embedded SW engineer, so there are still quite a long way before WinCE and PalmOS are obsoleted.

      • by Anonymous Coward
        Actually, embedded QT is already released under the GPL for non-commercial use. I couldn't reach the trolltech site but you can see the terms in the Google cached version [google.com] of the page.


        -jim

      • Unless the embedded QT gets released under the GPL
        It has - probably before you or anyone outside of TrollTech heard of it.
        Also, most of the Gnome/KDE software is bloated beyond belief when seen from the standpoint of an embedded SW engineer
        True, so there is an opportunity for furthur development - a move back to small unix style apps. Pipes instead of OLE and COM (sorry, I meant to say bonobo).
        X11 is simply too much of an memory hog, and to feature rich to run on any of the current generation of palm-sized devices.
        There is work in progress on bringing the size of X back down to what it once was.
    • Yes, you could be right.
      But while we move on towards
      the merge of PDAs, PocketPCs and mobile devices in 3G (UMTS), power consumption becomes more and more important. No ordinary user wants to recharge the battery of his "super-device" every 6 hours. But the ordinary user would like to watch small movies and listen to mp3 (or the successors techs) on his phone-device.
      So the "advances in CPU power" must also be
      advances in power consumption.
      A Palm of today needs much less power than a
      PocketPC like the iPaq (running Linux).
      A Palm of today is useable as a device you
      carry around and is "always on" like a moblie phone. PocketPCs aren't as far as that currently.
      So let's hope that CPU (ARM, mobile MIPS, mobile PPC) and display technologies improve so much that these "super-devices" of the next years are indeed running Linux/KDE? otherwise it's
      time for other OS/solutions.
    • Ahhh, this is too easy. To me, this posting is really a "Look ma! I'll say Linux is the best. Now moderate me up!" troll. You have some points, though. But Windows CE 3.0 isn't that bad at all and Palm has absolutely a serious contender on that one. And what is that "KDE Embedded" that you're talking about? Google found one "kde-embedded" mailinglist for me, but kde.org mentions it nowhere - it looks like it's only about recompiling KDE apps for Qt/Embedded (so you don't need X).
      I would be pleased if your scenario came true, for sure if it became mainstream. But do you think that's what Palm bought BeOS for?
    • The main reason people give for running Qt/Embedded is that it supposedly uses less memory and is faster than X11 on small machines. From the published claims for Qt/Embedded, as well as experience with existing X11 installations on handhelds, this does not seem to be the case. And if X11 can run on a 66MHz/8Mbyte handheld like the AgendaVR, it will be downright fast running on the 200MHz+ ARM chip (faster than many desktop machines just a couple of years ago).

      Running Qt/Embedded has all sorts of disadvantages, however:

      • You can't use X11 remote display for development on/for the handheld anymore. I have done development on Linux handhelds, and this is extremely useful in both directions.
      • You can't share the handheld screen between applications written in different toolkits anymore.
      • You are tied to a single toolkit for handheld development.

      There are two predominant environments for writing GUI apps on Linux handhelds: FLTK and Java, both using X11 as the display server. I doubt anything else is going to catch on widely.

      • 1) When was the last time your manager needed X11 remote display capabilities?
        2) Why the need for different toolkits?
        3) Why the need for different toolkits?
        (aside) Argh, Konqueror has gone into slow-mode again in text boxes...

        Anyway, there is nothing stopping someone from writing an Exceed like X11 manager for QT embedded anyway.

        I want that QNX PDA interface - that looked damn good.

        On a PDA, a single, integrated, interface is the way to go. Palm, WinCE, EPOC all have it. The other necessary thing is good applications - maybe someone can shrink KOffice down into a PDA format? Palm and PocketPC both have a myriad of good applications for the PDA display format. Linux programmers need to start programming apps for 320x240 displays, and QT/Embedded sounds like a good place to start.

        So you guys, instead of starting up "yet another text editor" or "yet another mp3 player" on sourceforge, why not do something new, and have "PDA format document editor" and "PDA format mp3 player"? PDAs in a couple of years will probably have 480x320 hi-res displays and 128MB of RAM anyway...

        • by mj6798 (514047) on Wednesday October 17, 2001 @06:46AM (#2440488)
          1) When was the last time your manager needed X11 remote display capabilities?

          Remote display is extremely useful for developing software for the handheld and for debugging it. Also, a 200MHz handheld is a powerful machine--with X11, you can use it like a desktop and with desktop applications running on it when you connect it to a network.

          2) Why the need for different toolkits?

          Because there are already lots of handheld applications written for toolkits other than Qt. Face it, the world isn't going to switch its vertical application development to Qt just because some people think it would be nice.

          On a PDA, a single, integrated, interface is the way to go.

          If you think "consumer market", perhaps. But Linux PDAs are for vertical apps, and the cost and success of vertical apps is driven by ease of development and porting among platforms, not by some nebulous notions of appearance. Multiple toolkits are a reality in that market.

          Linux programmers need to start programming apps for 320x240 displays, and QT/Embedded sounds like a good place to start.

          FLTK and Java are already much more widely used than Qt/Embedded, and they don't cost anything.

      • Running Qt/Embedded has all sorts of disadvantages, however:

        You can't use X11 remote display for development on/for the handheld anymore.

        Use VNC [trolltech.com] instead then. VNC is also much more useful than X once the palmtop is out in the wild - palmtops don't usually have constant network access when they're in your pocket, and VNC can detach and reattach easily to existing sessions, even if you change your IP address in the mean time. X requires a constant network connection or else the app that you're running over X dies.

        You can't share the handheld screen between applications written in different toolkits anymore.

        And this is a bad thing? Personally I'd be very happy to see embedded Linux not making the same usability mistakes that desktop Linux has in the past, and which it is only now recovering from. Lots of toolkits == inconsistent interface == usability problems. Diversity is great, but there are places where it is inappropriate, and user interface is one of them. Not to mention the bloat aspect of having multiple toolkits...

        You are tied to a single toolkit for handheld development.

        See above.

        Don't forget that Qt/embedded is also API-compatible with Qt/X11, which means that porting Qt apps from the Linux desktop is a cinch - and that's how Opera and Konq/e have been so rapidly successful - they are both based on Qt. Don't underestimate the importance of having a good browser for a palmtop. The only browsers I've seen for X11 that are optimized for display on a small palmtop screen are... Opera and Konq/e. You might as well run them under Qt/embedded.

        How many full-blown browsers do you know written in FLTK or Java? Maybe when there's a nice tiny browser for FLTK using Gecko as a rendering engine there'll be something to talk about.

        As for size, well, perhaps TinyX+FLTK+Blackbox really is no bigger than Qt/e. But think about what you get with Qt - Signals and Slots, a fast and very powerful canvas widget, full-blown Unicode support, in fact, all the nice features that have made Qt a huge success on the desktop. And, as I've said above, porting the multitude of existing Qt desktop apps is a no-brainer. Not to mention of course that the superb QPE is available, so if you want a complete environment for your users, it's just a compile away. No additional coding required.

        FLTK doesn't offer any of this. In fact, no current X11 toolkit other than Qt itself offers all this. If you start adding other toolkits on top of TinyX then you can make up for some of the more important features... but oops, there goes your size, and your consistent interface.

        If you have political problems with Qt, then say. You certainly seem to be short on valid technical problems.

        • Personally I'd be very happy to see embedded Linux not making the same usability mistakes that desktop Linux has in the past, and which it is only now recovering from. Lots of toolkits == inconsistent interface == usability problems. Diversity is great, but there are places where it is inappropriate,

          Linux has been a booming success with X11 as its graphics system and its wide variety of available GUIs. Anybody who wants any more consistency under X11 than they get with the standard conventions only has to restrain their urge to install packages whose GUI they don't like. All this talk about "inconsistency" and "usability" is just that: empty talk from people with an agenda to push, or people who value looks over functionality.

          If you have political problems with Qt, then say. You certainly seem to be short on valid technical problems.

          I would have a "political problem" with Qt/Embedded if I thought there was a chance that it might succeed and in the process do damage to Linux on handhelds. But I simply think Qt/Embedded is doomed (although we may see some Qt/X11 applications on handhelds still). The only thing that is marginally regrettable is that some people in the open source community waste effort on it, but if they don't get the issues, maybe they wouldn't help on other projects anyway.

    • Trolltech [trolltech.com] has some very interesting things like QT/Palmtop [trolltech.com] a fully fledged palmtop user interface with tools!
      BTW nice restyle trolltech!

      furthermore: on www.handhelds.org [handhelds.org] there are some really promising distros for ARM based PDAs

      and finially a real beauty: Pocketlinux!! [pocketlinux.com] a verty nice distro!!!!

      I really can't wait to try these distros on palm hardware!!!
    • I think you are right: WinCE was never a contender. Palm may or may not be the future, but it does something that I don't think WinCE does, or a port of Linux would: fit the market. I don't hide I perfer NT to Linux. However, when I went out this year to get a new PDA, I didn't get a WinCE device.

      Why? WinCE wasn't trying to be a handheld. It is trying to be a slimmed down version of a desktop OS. While it does enable some interesting ports (I'm still waiting for a port of Perl to the Palm (what a tounge twister!)) for a lot of PDA use (calander, to-do list, contacts, quick notes), it isn't the right model.

      Palm, on the other hand, seems to do better. Perhaps Linux would with the right mix of apps, but I simply don't see it scaling that way and fitting into the day-to-day life of the average user.

      Perhaps, instead, it will be a third (or, in this case, fourth) thing all together. Are there any serious PDA OSs out there aside from Palm and WinCE?
  • by Ukab the Great (87152) on Wednesday October 17, 2001 @02:28AM (#2440138)
    I'd get rid PalmOS too.
  • Unfortunate because:

    #1 - Having the OS and hardware made by the same company is IMHO part of what has kept the Palm stable enough to be useable in a "if this crashes with my [flight information / meeting notes / date's phone number] in it, I'm screwed" sort of way. As Apple has shown, there are definite advantages to having the hardware and software guys on the same team.

    #2 - As anyone who's dealt with Windoze will attest, the "it's their fault" / "no its THEIR fault" blame shifting that goes on between software and hardware vendors whenever a conflict comes up can only mean one thing: much longer waiting times before issues are resolved. With present-day Palm, like with Apple, we the consumer can say "your problem, you fix it!" and, while they may not fix it, they at least have to acknowledge that, hardware or software, its their company's problem and not some other company's problem.

    #3 - Dilution of the OS. The Palm OS works as well as it does because it is purpose built. I daresay Win CE has, as one of its many faults, the "all things to all people" problem, which makes it bloated and cumbersome and all that. Once a seperate company owns the Palm OS, logically they would seek to expand it across as many different pieces of hardware as possible, to maximize revenue and marketshare. As the OS is rewritten to run on more and more things, it moves away from the original "here's the OS we wrote to run on this one little machine" and closer to "here's a Windows CE competitor. Hey Bill! Come and crush us!".

    Obviously, I'm no expert. But its food for thought.
    • Having the OS and hardware made by the same company is IMHO part of what has kept the Palm stable enough to be useable

      Yeah, because my Handspring was made by Palm...just like the Sony is, and the TRGPro, and the Handera...

      There are about half a dozen PalmOS hardware companies out there, only one also makes hardware.

      As Apple has shown, there are definite advantages to having the hardware and software guys on the same team.

      Yes, there are. Palm gave them up about three years ago.

    • 1. I don't think Apple is such a good example. Although they make cool computers and they are on the cutting edge of hardware (other than processors), they have not been pushed to innovate in certain areas of OS design. OSX took 7? YEARS to develop.

      2. I think Handspring, Sony, and TRG (HandEra) have shown that they can make their hardware work with PalmOS quite nicely.

      3. I agree wholeheartedly. PalmOS is great at what it does, but I want more. I want proper networking. I want always on secure wireless access to email and other business apps. I want a higher res color screen (thank you Sony).

      The NEEDS of the many, who just wanted an organizer were met by Frankin with their electronic Rolodex address book and calendar. The WANTS of the many are not yet addressed.
  • One of the problems with dealing with the Palm OS is the brick wall you hit when you want to extend the OS. To get access to parts of the OS source code, you have to go through all sorts of rigmorole, signing NDAs, etc. Maybe now with the spinoff, they might Open Source it.

    One project I was investigating recently was to see whether I could replace the default HotSync mechanism with a dynamically compressed XML-RPC connection so that systems could connect to the Palm across the Internet, and vice versa, thus obviating the whole PC HotSync requirement. I eventually lost enthusiasm for it, though, given the huge task of reimplementing the same mechanisms used by the HotSync subsystem, without the benefit of OS source.

    Maybe if they Open Source it, I might reinvestigate doing it. :)
    • One of the problems with dealing with the Palm OS is the brick wall you hit when you want to extend the OS. To get access to parts of the OS source code, you have to go through all sorts of rigmorole, signing NDAs, etc. Maybe now with the spinoff, they might Open Source it.


      I don't follow your logic?

      It seems to me an OS (Operating System, not to be confused with Open Source) spin-off would make it LESS likely that the OS would go Open Source. For a combined company, a case could be made that Open Source helps make the OS more bug free, and thus the product gets better, thus more HW is sold...

      If the company's whole business model revolves around OS licensing, on the other hand, things are very different. Just as one example, Handspring, Sony, etc are now free to use the code (varies by license, but in general..) as long as they publish their changes... And the OS is way too simple for the end-user for downline 'support' to be an option for making money...So how do they stay in business?

    • Why would you even consider using ANY form of RPC to sync data?!?!? RPC is Remote Procedure Call. It's supposed to call a function on a remote location and get the result. Not for syncing 8 megs of data.

      Instead implementing something like SyncML would make sense.
      • The logic was to provide a comprehensive set of functions, similar to those of the HotSync API on the PC, which would be accessible on the Palm via the RPC mechanism. You could also take advantage of the extensible nature of XML to, for example, extend the functionality. One prime example I had in mind was being able to pass a field structure to an open table request, and have the new HotSync mechanism automatically convert record data to/from textual format when reading/writing records.

        I agree with you though that an XML-RPC wouldn't be the fastest system, but with some form of dynamic zip compression, you could reduce the transmission size dramatically.Especially for table access, the ability to zip up the stream, coupled with textual conversion of data, could provide significant compression of duplicated data across multiple records.

        Paul.
  • Didn't Palm buy the BeOS?

    Maybe they're going to reduce the BeOS kernel into something that runs on a Palm Pilot. I thought on the same token, Win CE is based on Win NT.

    One might hope for a BeOS desktop and palmtop along the same lines as Windows.

    Just a thought.

    • Good thought - BeOS started out on 66MHz PPCs, so a 206MHz StrongARM is a more than suitable replacement in my opinion.

      PDAs are like desktop operating systems, except the apps run in a fullscreen window all of the time instead of a randomly sized window. A 206MHz StrongARM (or 400MHz XScale) will be easily able to emulate a Palm Pilot at full speed, so forget about API and binary compatibility.

      Of course, I can't wait for the dual-processor PDAs.

  • No Linux in Sight (Score:5, Insightful)

    by GrouchoMarx (153170) on Wednesday October 17, 2001 @02:59AM (#2440181) Homepage
    Several posters so far have speculated on what this all means for Linux on the Palm. In truth, it means absolutely nothing.

    When Palm eventually moves to ARM-based hardware, I'm sure we'll see creative, inventive people making Linux ROM images for the hardware the same as they have for the iPAQ. But they won't be coming from Palm Solutions (the hardware/parent company), and I sincerely doubt they will be coming from any of the licensees. Why jump ship from a platform that had 80% of the retail market in August of this year, in addition to 80%-90% of the market for the past six years? That's foolish.

    In addition, there is a world of difference between a Linux PDA and a Palm PDA. The PalmOS is built from the ground up as a handheld, all-in-RAM, XIP OS. Linux is originally a server OS. Yes, there has been absolutely astounding work in recent years in bringing Linux into embedded systems, but that's not enough. The paradigm of Linux is the same as the paradigm of the PocketPCs; a file system. The PalmOS has no file system, save for on expansion cards which are a new development. It's a database-like in-RAM format. That's what makes it so fast. You can get better performance out of a 33MHz Palm than you do out of a 150MHz PocketPC. There's a fundamental archetectural reason for that. Sure, Linux and Win32 may be familiar for many developers, but in order to do it right you need an archetecture and API that is designed for that type of system.

    There's also the UI issue. The Palm UI was designed with Mac-like simplicity and consistency from the get-go. (Not surprising, considering that the majority of the founders were ex-Apple ane ex-Newton people.) The "Zen of Palm", alternately the subject of praise and flame wars, is really what made this organizer work as a portable computer. For cultural reasons, Linux doesn't have that. We (Slashdot readers) put up with a great deal more disparity in UI across a Linux desktop than a handheld user is willing to deal with. Simply throwing KDE or QT at it won't solve the problem of a UI that is consistent, learnable, and has almost zero learning curve.

    Sure, a company could take the Linux kernel and tools and write a Palm-esque interface for it, and rewrite the guts enough to be naturally resource-based XIP. But by that point, you're almost writing a new OS to start with. And every company is going to have their own "redux Tux", which means you won't be able to generate a single executable file that you can throw on any device, the way you can with a Palm. One truism of the Open Source / Free Software (whichever camp you are in) movement is a lack of unity in APIs and UI. That will kill any mass market attempt at a handheld. The market is not interested in a device you can tweak and customize and recompile. It wants a device you can charge, pickup, and use. And at least right now, Linux is not that.

    • The PalmOS is built from the ground up as a handheld, all-in-RAM, XIP OS. Linux is originally a server OS.

      No, Linux is originally Linus's terminal emulator project. Then it was a replacement for Minix, a free Unix operating system that people could run on widely available, inexpensive desktop hardware. And in that role, it was primarily used first as a desktop box; only later (think post 1.0) were people starting to deploy it widely as a server platform.

      Also, some Linux platforms run XIP. It's fairly easy to make the kernel itself run in place on linear ROM; just a few linker script tweaks. The Linux VR kernel also supports XIP for chosen exectuables and shared libraries, thanks to Rob Leslie's work on XIP for cramfs. On a file by file basis, you get a choice between uncompressed execute-from-ROM via MMU, or cramfs's block-by-block compression for executables you don't expect to be paged in as much.

      Yes, Unix systems tend to think of the world in terms of files. But for specific, chosen access styles, under the hood the files can be accessed just as efficiently as a fileless PalmDB scheme. Unix gives you a choice of how to do it, and you're not stuck with it; you can still read() and write() to files you're usually treating as memory-mapped databases. (With whatever synchronization you deem necessary; PalmOS doesn't have concurrent access synchronization problems because it, like DOS, only supports one program running at a time.)

      Actually, WinCE has support for XIP as well, but I don't know enough about it to post anything authoritative.

      Sure, a company could take the Linux kernel and tools and write a Palm-esque interface for it, and rewrite the guts enough to be naturally resource-based XIP.

      Like this? [agendacomputing.com]

      And every company is going to have their own "redux Tux", which means you won't be able to generate a single executable file that you can throw on any device, the way you can with a Palm.

      In other words, desktop Linux people should give up because a) you can't just throw a Windows or Mac executable on any machine and expect it to work. In fact, Apple should give up as well.

      Nah. Diversity is a good thing. It's what got Linux here. It's what got *BSD here. We wouldn't have Gnome or KDE if they hadn't decided to dump Motif and Athena.

      • Sure, a company could take the Linux kernel and tools and write a Palm-esque interface for it, and rewrite the guts enough to be naturally resource-based XIP.

        Like this? [agendacomputing.com]

        And every company is going to have their own "redux Tux", which means you won't be able to generate a single executable file that you can throw on any device, the way you can with a Palm.

        Yep, exactly like that. Now also look at http://www.linuxda.com/ [linuxda.com]. Both are Palm-like Linux-based PDAs. I'll lay you odds that you can't beam an executable from one to the other and have it work without recompiling. (For one thing, the Agenda uses a MIPS processor, the PowerPlay III uses Dragonball.) That may be great for darwinism, but not for selling units. Not in the handheld space.

  • Let's see, Palm CEO announced this in June [pdabuzz.com], the official press release came out in July [prnewswire.com], and it is only now hitting Slashdot?

    Three fourths of News is New.
  • Kind-of stale news. (Score:2, Informative)

    by dsandler (224364)
    Yes, the letter to Dave is fresh, but we've known that Palm has been planning to spin off its PalmOS group for quite [prnewswire.com] a [forbes.com] while [zdnet.com].

    Incidentally, let's all hope that they drop the Newco moniker.

  • You know, I don't think Micro$oft really understands this concept very well. On the other hand, perhaps they realize that the Gov doesn't force them to be non-monopolistic, so they take every advantage of it.
  • It may sound like a good idea to separate the OS from the HW company. It might attract other HW companies to use the OS.

    Psion did this with their OS (EPOC). The OS was transferred to Symbian. The idea was to let other companies such as Nokia, Ericsson, Motorola, etc use the OS in their new mobile phones. I don't think they were successfull. Motorola cancelled their product...

    Now Psion has stopped making new PDAs using EPOC. PocketPC seems to be the winner here.

    I really hope that Palm does not go the same route. If PalmOS looses market share, would Palm simply make a PocketPC-based PDA with some simple apps for migrating from PalmOS?
    • Umm .. Symbian's alive and kicking :) Ericsson R380, R380e and the Nokia 9210 are all based on ER6-versions of Epoc. You also have the Psion Industrial side of things, still producing rugged handhels for that market based on Epoc.


      Oh, and Sanyo recently showed a PDA running Epoc (Quartz 6.1) vs the one they've shown before (Quartz 6.0) so I fail to see your point :)

  • by hacker (14635) <hacker@gnu-designs.com> on Wednesday October 17, 2001 @04:08AM (#2440265)
    I for one, do not understand this. Their hardware business is the lower cost-center. They get licensing from all of their OEM partners, and frankly, Palm's hardware sucks. They haven't yet innovated in any way that they can call their own. They're on third and fourth generation devices, and they're still shipping with 8 megs of memory.
    • Symbol Technologies licenses the Palm and creates several units [symbol.com] which can do RF, 802.11, and include a barcode scanner (high-output LED)
    • Handspring [handspring.com] invents the Springboard slot [handspring.com] and implements pseudo-USB support for connecting the devices.
    • Sony [sony.com] mimics that with the MemoryStick, but adds VFS support, and takes Handspring's USB protocol, changes one function, and makes their own spin on it.
    • Handera [handera.com], formerly TRG builds upon that with a sliding graffiti area (thanks for incorporating my idea from #palmchat back in 1998 on that one), and adds CF and SD slot architectures (still serially connected storage though, can't "run apps" from each card concurrently)
    • Palm [palm.com] comes out with the replacement to the Vx, called the m505 [palm.com], and includes the Sony VFS extensions, the Handspring hardware port design (internally) and the Handspring USB modifications, but changes it enough to make yet a third fork of this pseudo-USB protocol. They also make sure to make every single thing about this new device completely incompatible with every single other thing available for their devices, even down to a 2mm change in the stylus length (I have a more detailed enumeration of those changes found here [moongroup.com]).

    Why does Palm think they're about to, in any way, create a new hardware device that they think will surpass these existing innovative devices? Palm is ALWAYS behind the curve on hardware advances in this area. We're not even talking about comparing them to the iPAQ [handhelds.org], VTech Helio [myhelio.com], Agenda [agendacomputing.com], Yopy [yopy.com], and the other dozens of non-PalmOS, non-WinCE handheld PDA devices.

    Currently, Palm's OEMs for the PalmOS® software include:

    • Sony
    • Handspring
    • Handera (formerly TRG)
    • Qualcomm (bought out by Kyocera)
    • Kyocera [kyocera-wireless.com]
    • Symbol Technologies
    • ...and others.

    They get licensing from each and every one of these OEMs. Their hardware is the last thing to ever be updated. It is without a doubt, the least innovative portion of their business.. and they're choosing to keep it?!

    I don't quite understand the motive behind this decision on their part. I suppose I'll find out at Palmsource [palmsource.com] in February.

    • Why does Palm think they're about to, in any way, create a new hardware device that they think will surpass these existing innovative devices?

      Well to be honest the m500s as much as you seem to dislike it really is a close run with Handspring's product.

      I had one of the first Visors (pre-order, wait list, blah-blah). None of the springboards was every well priced. I waited for over a year for a GPS and finally gave up. The MP3 springboards cost more then stand alone players (almost twice what I payed for the Rio). The 6-in-1 was more then two years late last I looked. The only thing I ever got was the backup module, which isn't that much more useful then frequent hot syncing.

      Still I think the slot is cool, so when I went busted the Visor Handspring's new products were high on my list. I eventually decided I liked the Visor Edge. The m505 was a little smaller, barely heaveyer, and had a vibrating alarm, oh and a tiny slot for extra memory (the Edge requires a large plastic holder). The thing that finally convinced me to get the Edge is the metal cover (vs. the 505's psudo leather). Since I broke the Visor by breaking it through the plastic cover, I liked the idea of something a bit more sturdy.

      Of corse if I had been looking for color Handspring had nothing. The m515, or whatever Palm's color m500 is pretty much has the market. It is the smallest little color PalmOS box.

      That doesn't mean palm makes the best hardware all across the line, but they don't do so bad.

    • They spun off the software division because the hardware is where the money is. The software division makes less than 5% of the company's gross revenue. If they spun it off completely into a public company, it would never survive the first year. They need for it to be able to mooch off of the parent company for now.

      And a side note: Sony didn't invent VFS. Palm gave them an early release of their VFS APIs for the original CLIE in order to get them on board for the PalmOS. And TRG (now HandEra) had their own API for the TRGpro (their original device, with CF slot), which frankly was a lot faster. :-)

  • So now, it is no longer a vision, but a de-vision? I would think that there would be some division over that position. ;)
  • Damn! I haven't realized that the situation was as bad as needing to re-phrase "layoffs" as "spinoffs". The job carroussel must sure be turning fast these days.
  • Why? (Score:1, Interesting)

    Why is it that every time a company comes up with a good sideline product, they spin it off into it's own company? I mean, how are you supposed to build a company that way?

    Every time Edison came up with a new invention, he didn't spin it off into it's own company. Everything remained the product of Edison General Electric, or one of it's divisions. Same thing goes for IBM. Ford hasn't spun each model into it's own company.

    How are you supposed to build a large business if you keep giving away all your best products?

    • Do you have any idea what you're talking about? Edison was a terrible business man and wasn't very rich at all during his life. He did not start Con Edison either. He was very naive.
      • I have to wonder if you have any idea what you're talking about. Edison General Electric at it's peak in 1890 was worth more than $3 billion(if you compensate for inflation, that works out to approx. $300 billion in today's money), and his personal fortune was well into the hundreds of millions.

        A bad businessman couldn't do that. Edison General Electric went on to form the core of GE, along with several other, smaller companies.
    • It's not the size of your company that counts; what is important is the total market value of all of its pieces, regardless of capital structure. Spin-offs are a great way to maximize shareholder value. You are able to recogize the full, true value of each new company, rather than having one large company where certain divisions may weigh down the value of other, more profitable divisions.

      AT&T and HP did this recently. AT&T broke itself into AT&T, Lucent and NCR. Then the new AT&T spun off AT&T Wireless. HP broke itself into a new HP (computers, printers) and Agilent (test equipment, which was the original business).
  • $55,000 dollars a month.
    + stock options + bonuses + grants.

    No wonder these guys take decisions which dont seem intelligent to us normal guys.

    No wonder they, sometime, miss things which seem so obvious to many.
  • i figure if palm spins off anymore we'll soon have a company that makes stylii and only stylii. needless, the idea of a separate palm OS company sounds promising
  • Lets not forget... (Score:2, Insightful)

    by cr@ckwhore (165454)
    Lets not forget they recently picked up BeOS... I have a feeling that Palm is either staging their deaths, or trying gain some new market position in a brilliant manner. Its going to be really interesting to watch.

  • This (IMO) is a great move for Palm. A move Apple should have made with MacOS before Windows got so entrenched in the market.

    It's a little known fact that a skunkworks Apple project known as Star Trek succeeded in porting MacOS to run on an x86 system. Instead of embracing it, Apple management killed off the project fearing it would have a detrimental impact on Apple hardware sales.

    If MacOS had been spun off into a seperate entity, they would have had no such restrictions on their behaviour, and x86 MacOS would have been released. A far superior product to Windows at that time. The world might have looked a lot different if the Star Trek project had not been killed.

    By spinning off PalmOS into a seperate company which doesn't care who it sells licences to, Palm will end up encouraging other players to create devices that run PalmOS, because they know that the Palm hardware arm no longer has an "inside advantage" over them. It will also likely speed ports of PalmOS to other platforms, increasing market acceptance of the Palm platform.

    Regards,

    jc
  • Some of you may remember the Tandy/Casio Z-PDA 7000 "Zoomer" (very few, I'll wager, due to its less than outstanding success) which was also a handheld PC. It fit in your pants pocket, if you had big pants (I do) as it was a bit larger than the average harlequin romance.

    The Zoomer used a V20 CPU and had 1MB of ram and 4MB of rom. It had stroke-based handwriting recognition (a first in portable devices) and a GREAT selection of bundled apps, including a 20 language translator (which didn't have a word for "computer" in it, oddly - it would come in handy when trying to explain what the hell you were scribbling on) and a currency converter - Imagine that!

    The software was PC-GEOS, with basically three new things; An updated digitizer driver to support the input method, a new CGA driver to support a 384 wide by 512 high mono CGA display, and handwriting recognition. It was at least as stable as PalmOS with a hack or two, and had a whole hell of a lot more bundled software. I don't remember what kind of expansion it had, I seem to recall it took Type 2 flash cards from sandisk. I think I had a 1.8 MB card.

    Anyway, I mention it because it was Palm's first job, they did the GEOS and apps bundle for it. It was actually a pretty cool little device, and it's also where Graffiti, the PalmOS' input method came from; Graffiti was originally an upgrade for the Zoomer. You loaded it and it created a little box you drew your characters in. The Zoomer's text input was done all over the screen. Graffiti differs from the original handwriting recognition largely in that there are no multi-stroke characters.

    So now they're "spinning off" the software division? Big shock. They worked well as an independent company; Now that there's quotes around that, they should at least be able to get most of their efficiency going again. I refuse to speculate on any Be issues, though.

    Side note; You can put GEOS on a GRiDPad 1710, and use the version of Graffiti from the Zoomer on it. I know this because I've done it. I need to make up some new battery packs for my GRiDPad, though. I'd really like to have it available while I work on my car, so I can take notes and whatnot. It's got a big (640x400x1bpp) monochrome CGA display, which is supported by GEOS' default CGA driver, a tethered pen which is actually better for industrial use because you can't lose the damn thing, and a nice, bright backlight. Hell, I've found my keys by that backlight before.

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